By Lateef Adegbite
Those who thinks that the Authority of Heads of States and Government of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, are acting out a script of France, the former colonial power of Niger Republic to resolve their political crisis may have to do a rethink.
Bolaji Akinyemi, a Professor and former Director General, Nigeria Institute of International Affairs and who incidentally was a one-time minister of External Affairs during former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, rtd,’s administration who had dismissed the claims that the ECOWAS Leaders are doing ‘’the bidding of France and the Western powers’’, had said that the regional bloc efforts to resolve the political instability in the neighbouring West African country to Nigeria, the most populous country in the African Continent was borne out of its desire for peace in the susb-region.
Appearing on Channels Television on Monday, August 14, 2023, monitored by The Value News, in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, the former minister who could not hide his feelings had said that the ECOWAS leaders are only trying ‘’to stop the spread of military coups in the sub-region and not protecting the French interests as alleged’’.
He noted that if the ECOWAS Leaders were acting to protect the interests of France, which has over 1,500, troops stationed in, it could not have moved stop Gen. Abdourahmane and his fellow putschists who had toppled a constitutionally elected President Mohammed Bazoum.
According to him the French troops have been in Niger since the ‘60s and terrorism activities had been ongoing in the country, Mali, Burkina Faso, all member countries off the Sahel region which had spread to Nigeria, another member country of the region over the years.
The former NNIA, Director General, had asserted that the French troops stationed in Niger and these other French-speaking countries are there ‘’to protect their economic interest, French companies, French armies and not the interest of the Africans’’.
He was emphatic that the ECOWAS Leaders are making efforts to resolve the crisis in Niger Republic because they don’t want ‘’the spread of coups in their territories and that is why they have drawn the battle line in the country’’. He had told those cares to listen that the ECOWAS are not being teleguided by France or Nigeria being teleguided by President Emmanuel Macron’s home country which ‘’Operation Barkhane’’ in Mali, Central African Republic, CAR, Burkina Faso and Niger has been described as a failure.
Although, Sebastien Lecornu, French minister of defence would not agree that Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region was a failure, he had revealed that the French armies have constantly pushed back the terrorists’ groups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, to forestall the spread of terrorism in the Sahel region.
The French defence minister may have shocked Nigeriens and other member countries of the Sahel region when he declared that the coup in Niger Republic will ‘’undermine the fight against the terrorists’ groups in the region’’.
The recent attack at Kundu Zungeru in the Wushishi Local Government Area of Niger, former Military President Babangida, home state by the terrorists which was said to have resulted in the death of 21 military personnel including some senior officers speaks volume.
The soldiers who were said to have fallen into the waiting hands of the terrorists were said to be on patrol ‘’to block the Kundu route of the terrorists from Niger Republic who were about to cross with some rustled cattle to Niger when they were ambushed and bullet rained on them. The terrorists were said to have rustled several cattles from several communities in Niger Republic and had tried to cross from Akere route to the northern parts of Nigeria.
A Nigerian Air Force, NAF, mi-171 Helicopter on a casualty evacuation mission which was said to have departed Zungeru Primary school enroute to Kaduna, was said to have crashed near Chukuba village in Shiroro Local Government Area of the state. Preliminary investigations were said to have commenced to unravel the probable cause of the crash.
Also, on Sunday, August 13, 2023, the foreign terrorists and their local collaborators had attacked Bungugu Local Government Area of Zamfara state resulting in one death and the kidnapping of six victims, forcing Dauda Lawal, the governor to condemn in strong terms the terrorists, further reassuring the people of his administration’s commitment and readiness ‘’to end the menace of banditry in the state’’.
The ECOWAS Leaders in anger over the Niger coup had suspended all commercial transactions with the country, frozen its state assets and enterprises in Commercial banks as well as suspended all financial assistance with the regional central banks. The regional Organisation had even contemplated drafting the regional standby Army to Niger to chase out the coup Leaders who had said that they have gathered enough evidence ‘’to prosecute the former President for ‘’high treason and undermining the eternal and external security of the country’’.
The regional bloc which was said to have closed all land and air borders between the member countries and Niger Republic was said to have put the necessary structure in place to ensure compliance. Alasane Quatara, Cote d’Ivoire, President, who had confirmed last Thursday, that the military operation against Niger Republic will soon start and that his country would contribute a battalion of between 850 to 1,100 soldiers alongside Nigeria and Benin Republic may have incurred the wrath of the Niger coup Leaders.
The Niger Republic new government which was already nursing grudge against the Cote d’Ivoire President Quatara, for pushing for military intervention against Niamey and even going a step further to kill its economy by stopping the importation of its goods or export of its products to the West African country were said to have recalled the country’s envoy in Abidjan on Monday, August 14, 2023, which was a tacit declaration of a diplomatic war with Coted’Ivoire.
Many had expected the Nigerien new military Leaders to extend the same action to Nigeria which has championed the use of military hostility to force out the Niger putschists from power. The Nigerian government had even gone a step further to cut off power supply to the country that had depended on it for over 70% of its electricity needs.
This is a country, according to the World Trade Organisation, WTO, records is the seventh – largest producer of uranium, the radioactive metal widely used for nuclear and treating cancer but had remained one of the world’s poorest countries, receiving close to $2 billion annually in development assistance from the World Bank/IMF and other donor financial multilateral Financial Institutions.
The immediate past President Bazoum, who is currently being held hostage in the Presidential Palace in Niamey, the country’s capital with his wife and son, alongside some arrested ministers in other buildings close to the Presidential Palace are said to be staying without power, running water and no access to medical doctors, 2023 budget projections of N5.53 billion, had expected to fund the budget with additinal $2.2 billion from the external partners .
Ali Mahamane Zein, the military appointed new Prime Minister of Niger and who will also serve as the country’s minister of Finance and Economy had described as ‘’unfair’’ the sanctions imposed on the country by the regional body, stressing that ‘’the country will overcome it’’.
An aggrieve Zein had said that the sanctions had made it difficult for people to access medicines, food and electricity ‘’, describing the measures as ‘’illegal, inhuman and humiliating’’, an indication that that the financial transactions sanctions is biting hard on the country.
Appealing to the Nigerian government to have a rethink in the implementation of the sanctions against Niger, he noted the importance of the country’s ties with Nigeria as well as other member countries of the West African economic bloc. He noted that given the great interest in preserving this important and historical relationship and also in having ECOWAS work on purely economic issues, there is need to tread with caution on the Niger crisis.
Hear him: Because the basic principle of solidarity is to work to enable all state that belong to the regional Organisation to be in a position to create the conditions for posterity, there is need to ensure that each of the member countries of the union benefits from the solidarity of the Community, assuring the ECOWAS Leaders that their actions in Niger are focused on serving the people with complete integrity and competence.